Guest blogging today is Reverend Kara Root, pastor of Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church (Minneapolis, MN), a congregation whose life revolves around Sabbath, worship and hospitality. Lake Nokomis has lived creatively into these practices and been transformed by God’s Spirit through them. The congregation has offered Sabbath retreats and workshops in the Twin Cities, most recently a series of 24-Hour Deep Breaths. To learn more, go to http://www.lakenokomispc.org/.
Sabbath is so counter-cultural that we don’t even know where to begin. It seems by the time we grow out of toddler naps, we’ve aged out of the right to rest (until retirement at least). For most of our lives we are trained to resist rest, to label stopping as “lazy,” and to treat rest as a reward that is earned after work is completed, instead of a necessary rhythm, the foundation from which life flows. When given a chance to practice Sabbath, even with the desire to do so, we’re often at a loss.
I received this question about Sabbath a couple weeks ago from a friend and thought it might be helpful for others:
Hi, Kara. Do you have suggestions for how to help people embrace Sabbath? Like how to quiet your mind to make way for creativity? Will be interested in your thoughts or reading recommendations. Love, Sandy
Here was my response:
I love Wayne Muller’s book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives. That’s kind of what got me started in all of it seven years ago. I also love Walter Brueggemann’s book, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No the the Culture of Now.
It’s hard to quiet your mind. But it all begins in grace and abundance. So the way to start is with gentleness toward yourself, with compassion and curiosity: “Look at that, my racing mind!” (My friend Jamie taught me that sometimes self-compassion can start as simply as placing your hand on your cheek and saying to yourself, “Oh, honey…,” and then feeling the self-empathy well up.)
When we think that we must have a quiet mind in order to do Sabbath “right,” we are still trapped in the idea that our worth, or the worth of the day, is dictated by productivity—by doing things right or well, or doing enough. The gift of Sabbath is stopping whether we’re ready or not, whether we’re in a good place or not, because our value comes simply from being children of God. That’s it. And that’s true even for busy-minded children, like us.
With some compassion and self-empathy and patience, our minds eventually quiet, enabling us to tap into creativity. But some Sabbath days it never does come; the buildup of stress or whatever is too big. Creativity comes from a place of settledness and groundedness. Sometimes we’re so rest-deprived that we can’t quite get there. Even so, we get closer than we were. The day is still a gift. It’s still stopping.
Occasionally I keep a little list of all the things my mind is trying to hang onto that I am choosing to set down for the day and come back to tomorrow. Then as things comes up, I jot them down in order to let them go. Similarly, in our family, we try to start Sabbath days with some sense of intention. We each answer:
Today I say no to . . .
Today I say yes to . . .
Then the Sabbath day is shaped by freedom and not obligation. That’s the most boiled down way we practice it.
Adapted from an earlier post on Kara’s blog, in the hereandnow.